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Harsher hit-and-run penalties in the works for New York State

After a recent wave of hit-and-run accidents in New York City, the State Senate has taken action, voting last week to approve legislation that would increase statewide penalties for leaving the scene of an accident where property damage, serious injury or death occurs.

The bill, sponsored by State Senator Marty Golden, would raise the crime designation for drivers who leave the scene of an accident where someone was killed to a Class C Felony.

Repeat hit-and-run drivers who cause property damage or personal injury would also face stiffer penalties, raised from a Class E Felony to a Class D Felony — and drivers who cause property damage but leave the scene of an accident without stopping and/or reporting it could be charged with a Class E Felony, instead of the lighter Class A Misdemeanor charge. The bill has now moved to the Assembly’s Transportation Committee.

The Senate’s approval is timely, because in the past three months, hit-and-run accidents have claimed four lives in the five boroughs, Golden said.

Earlier this month, “A hit-and-run accident in Manhattan took the life of a senior citizen,” Golden said. “Two times in December, we saw young women lose their lives at the hands of a motorist, in the Bronx and in Queens. And in November, a jogger was struck and killed in Brooklyn.”

Bay Ridge is not new to devastating hit-and-run accidents. On Saturday, Feb. 16, in fact, Matthew Garry, a 15-year-old Xaverian High School football player, was struck by a hit-and-run driver on the corner of Fourth Avenue and 78th Street, suffering serious injuries as a result (see story on this page).

Another neighborhood family is still living with the pain caused by a hit-and-run driver. Nearly 19 years after the incident, the Blanchard and McLeer family continues to seek closure and justice for a 1994 hit-and-run on the corner of 92nd Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway, where a box truck driver struck and killed their mother, Donna, 43 at the time, and sister Michele, only four — and then left the scene. The box truck driver never came forward, confessing to hitting the pair.

“It is time to get serious about making sure that reckless drivers, who take innocent lives and destroy families, face the strictest penalties,” Golden said, stressing that time is of the essence. “Each day that the State Assembly fails to act,” he contended, “it is another day that New Yorkers are walking, jogging and riding their bikes in danger.”

Brooklyn Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz is the bill’s sponsor in the Assembly.

Many high-profile hit-and-run accidents resulting in injury or death have been reported by the media over the last several years within the five boroughs,” Cymbrowitz said in a statement. “Stronger action is clearly required, and additional increases are warranted. Increasing all penalties for leaving the scene of an accident will deter drivers from leaving injured victims on the road, facilitate police investigation, and permit chemical testing of drivers by the police in cases where such testing is warranted.

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